After years of domestic abuse, Karva Pitts left her husband, Dwight Long, and tried to maintain a civil relationship with him because they had a young daughter together.
After an ugly, terrifying incident on Super Bowl Sunday 2013, in which the defendant told her in front of her parents that he would come to her work and kill her, Karva obatined an order of protection against him.
Just two weeks later on Valentine’s Day 2013, defendant after selling all of his belongings and renting a car drove to Karva’s place of business in Swansea and parked on the lot, a protected place in the order of protection.
Defendant waited until Karva walked out of work and then in front of several co-workers, he walked toward Karva. A female co-worker of Karva’s attempted to stand between Karva and defendant until she saw defendant had a knife.
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Karva began to run away from defendant who chased her down and stabbed her twice in the back with a large knife.
Karva was transported to St. Louis University Hospital in critical condition and was treated for stab wounds, one of which had just missed her heart. Miracuously, Karva survived.
Defendant was charged by my office with attempt first degree murder, order of protection violation, aggravated domestic battery, and aggravated fleeing and eluding.
The case went to jury trial in April of 2014.
At the trial, Karva found the courage and strength to face defendant and testify along with her parents, co-workers and police officers.
The jury convicted defendant of all charges.
Defendant was sentenced to prison and is currently incarcerated.
I know. Kind of a heavy way to start a speech. But that's why we are here. Normally, you would say your “thank yous” and acknowledgments up front and I do want to thank the organizers of this event for inviting me to speak, and I want to thank the men and women of law enforcement, and on behalf of the people of St. Clair County and on behalf of all prosecutors in the St. Clair County, I thank the Violence Prevention Center and all who work to prevent domestic violence for their efforts.
But we are not here to just say thank you. It is not enough to just say thank you.
When I thought about what to say here tonight, here at a candlelight vigil, to bring awareness to the public about the harm of domestic violence in our community, to literally shine a light on this problem and to call upon victims and their fellow citizens to stand up against domestic violence, I couldn’t help but think of the old Dylan Thomas poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” It’s a poem about death and doing everything you can to resist death. And for so many advocates and members of the justice system that is what we do every day when it comes to domestic violence, and for far, far too many victims of domestic violence, death is what it can come down to.
The refrain of that poem is “Do not go gentle into that good night, rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
When our fellow human beings are beaten and abused their light is diminished. When a child sees domestic violence their light is diminished. When a life is lost because of domestic violence, a soul is lost, all the good that person could have done in this world, all the love that person gave and received, that person’s very light, dies out.
But tonight, as we begin domestic violence awareness month and remember those who have suffered from domestic violence, we have to do more than shake our heads, shed a tear for those we have lost, and return to our daily lives. We must say to victims and to ourselves, “Do not go gentle into the night! Rage, rage against the dying of the light!”
Because, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
• Every 9 seconds in the US, a woman is assaulted or beaten.
• On an average day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.
• Intimate partner violence accounts for 15 percent of all violent crime.
• Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior.
So we must say to victims and to ourselves: “Do not go gentle into the night! Rage, rage against the dying of the light!”
Because in all communities, but especially this one, domestic violence is often at the nexus of challenges we face in our present and our future.
Victims of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8 million days of paid work each year.
The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $8.3 billion per year.
On average 40 percent of victims of intimate partner violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse.
I need not remind those of you here about the statistics of domestic violence and the murders in own our community that stem from domestic violence. But what about sexual assault, what about truancy, what about unemployment, what about gun violence, what about the fact that too many young men are in morgues or in prison because of learned violence, what about that fact that three years ago one of St. Clair County’s cities had a per capita murder rate 20 times the national average?
One in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90 percent of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence. Go to any O.B. unit in our area and you will not see a single baby with a gun or with drugs. Something happens along the way. What do children learn when we do nothing about domestic violence? They usually learn that their mother’s life is cheap, that the abuser’s life is also cheap and that their own lives are cheap. And that makes it all the more easy to skip school, have unprotected sex, do drugs, and pull the trigger of an illegal gun — because they’ve learned the lives they affect don’t matter and neither do their own.
Far, far too many cases of domestic abuse go unreported, especially in minority communities. This is unacceptable, untenable and offensive to the conscience.
We must encourage victims to come forward and follow through. We must urge them to act and we ourselves must act before it’s too late. And yes for some domestic offenders we must find a way to help them unlearn the learned violence, deal with stress in a healthy safe way and save those families that can be saved. But for those unwilling or unable to turn away from violence, we must hold you accountable to the fullest extent possible.
For our communities’ sake and for our children’s sake, for the light of their lives. We must say to victims and to ourselves: “Do not go gentle into the night! Rage, rage against the dying of the light!”
Yes, those statistics and the depth and breadth of the challenge seems daunting but, for those of you who often slept through poetry class like I did, I also thought about one of my favorite TV shows, “True Detective,” when thinking about what to say tonight.
In the final scene of Season One of “True Detective,” Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, two gritty and worn-out detectives are staring up at the night sky and talking about their most recent case when McConaughey’s character says: “It’s just one story. Really the oldest. Light versus dark.” And Harrelson’s character looks at the dark night sky and candidly says: “It appears to me the dark has a lot more territory.”
And for some victims of domestic violence and, I can tell you personally, for those of us fighting domestic violence, it sometimes feels like the dark has a lot more territory.
But McConaughey’s character says “Ya’ know you’re looking at it wrong, that sky thing. Once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light’s winning.”
Well, look at what the Violence Prevention Center is doing by expanding services to secondary victims of domestic violence.
Look at the beautiful, soul-restoring art therapy services being provided by the Violence Prevention Center.
Look at the domestic violence investigation checklist for police that was implemented several years ago to improve domestic violence cases.
Look at the establishment of the Tracy Fogarty Domestic Violence Unit that has been supported by grants, and donations from Ameren and Jack Miller.
Look at the lethality assessment program which is being implemented to empower victims and law enforcement to identify the most dangerous offenders and to take measures to flee that potentially lethal situation.
Look at how rare all those efforts are compared to many places around the country.
Look at the fact that we have no less than doubled the number of domestic violence prosecutions in the past four years.
I think of the hundreds of victims of domestic violence that I have encountered that have stood up for themselves, I look at the hundreds of men and women in law enforcement and the justice system, I look at the fierce advocates across our community and country that are leading the struggle against domestic violence, and I will at look you all here tonight, lighting your candle and I can’t help but think: If you ask me, in St. Clair County, the light’s winning.
State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly delivered this speech Thursday during a candlelight vigil at Lindenwood University-Belleville that marked the start of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.